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12 Week Review of Stronglifts 5x5


#1

I've finally finished my 12 week trial run of Stronglifts and thought I'd give a review for any others thinking about using it. You can read all about the program on the Stronglifts website so this will be just what it's done for me.

About me. When I started I was 6'3'' 230 pounds and 26. I've never lifted and was out of shape. I followed the programs advice and started with just the bar on everything. This is hard on the ego but smart because these lifts need to be learned with minimal weight or it'll suck down the road.

After 12 weeks-
Squat 225 3x5
Deadlift 235 1x5
Bench 135 3x5
OHP 85 3x5
Row 120 3x5

These aren't my maxs its just where I am now and its way more than I know I could have done 12 weeks ago. OHP is low because of form issues. I kept deloading trying to get it so I wasn't straining my lower back. Deadlift is low because of form issues too. I switched to sumo and my form is now in check.

All in all this is a good program. I would highly recommend it to anyone whos starting out lifting. Initially I lost 10 pounds but have gained it back because you have to eat a lot to keep the gains going and daily energy. My diet is very bad though and I'll be fixing that shortly.

My only complaint is the program claims the lifts will keep your core strong enough for the squats. For me this isn't true. My core is giving out way before my legs. I'm going to be adding core work.

Hope this helps anyone looking for a beginner program.


#2

It’s good to see that this worked for you.

However, it is probably necessary to point out that Stronglifts is arguably one of the less good 5x5 novice program variations. Starting Strength is probably one of if not the best, and Madcow is also quite good (but more for mass than strength as I understand it).

Also, just as a note that while without video it’s hard/impossible to say it sounds more like your back isn’t strong enough and you aren’t getting tight enough in your squats. That would make sense with your deadlift being so close to your squat.

Anyway, again, well done, and I’d recommend checking out Starting Strength and doing that for six or so months. You’d probably do well on that.


#3

[quote]MarkKO wrote:
It’s good to see that this worked for you.

However, it is probably necessary to point out that Stronglifts is arguably one of the less good 5x5 novice program variations. Starting Strength is probably one of if not the best, and Madcow is also quite good (but more for mass than strength as I understand it).

Also, just as a note that while without video it’s hard/impossible to say it sounds more like your back isn’t strong enough and you aren’t getting tight enough in your squats. That would make sense with your deadlift being so close to your squat.

Anyway, again, well done, and I’d recommend checking out Starting Strength and doing that for six or so months. You’d probably do well on that. [/quote]

Youre right about my back. When I mentioned my core I meant the whole core (not just abs). Any tips on what I can do to help that?

I’ve heard SS is great and I might try it eventually. Madcow I’ve heard is good too but is a weekly progression workout instead of every workout so its not really a beginner from what I understand.


#4

[quote]MarkKO wrote:
It’s good to see that this worked for you.

However, it is probably necessary to point out that Stronglifts is arguably one of the less good 5x5 novice program variations. Starting Strength is probably one of if not the best, and Madcow is also quite good (but more for mass than strength as I understand it).

Also, just as a note that while without video it’s hard/impossible to say it sounds more like your back isn’t strong enough and you aren’t getting tight enough in your squats. That would make sense with your deadlift being so close to your squat.

Anyway, again, well done, and I’d recommend checking out Starting Strength and doing that for six or so months. You’d probably do well on that. [/quote]

I’m curious, what makes Starting Strength a 5x5 variation? It never uses that set or rep scheme as far as I’m aware.


#5

Starting Strength and Greyskull LP are the best linear progressions in my opinion (and they’re very similar). Neither really uses a 5x5 set/rep scheme so technically might not be considered a “5x5” program, except for the general emphasis on sets of 5. (And if you do 2 warmups of 5 reps and then 3x5 work sets, that’s 5x5).

Madcow is great too, I made some of my best gains on it, but is a weekly progression so yes more “intermediate.”


#6

[quote]T3hPwnisher wrote:

[quote]MarkKO wrote:
It’s good to see that this worked for you.

However, it is probably necessary to point out that Stronglifts is arguably one of the less good 5x5 novice program variations. Starting Strength is probably one of if not the best, and Madcow is also quite good (but more for mass than strength as I understand it).

Also, just as a note that while without video it’s hard/impossible to say it sounds more like your back isn’t strong enough and you aren’t getting tight enough in your squats. That would make sense with your deadlift being so close to your squat.

Anyway, again, well done, and I’d recommend checking out Starting Strength and doing that for six or so months. You’d probably do well on that. [/quote]

I’m curious, what makes Starting Strength a 5x5 variation? It never uses that set or rep scheme as far as I’m aware.[/quote]

Point taken. I was referring more to the use of sets of 5, and that SS is probably one of the best novice programs out there.


#7

[quote]GetTheLedOut wrote:

[quote]MarkKO wrote:
It’s good to see that this worked for you.

However, it is probably necessary to point out that Stronglifts is arguably one of the less good 5x5 novice program variations. Starting Strength is probably one of if not the best, and Madcow is also quite good (but more for mass than strength as I understand it).

Also, just as a note that while without video it’s hard/impossible to say it sounds more like your back isn’t strong enough and you aren’t getting tight enough in your squats. That would make sense with your deadlift being so close to your squat.

Anyway, again, well done, and I’d recommend checking out Starting Strength and doing that for six or so months. You’d probably do well on that. [/quote]

Youre right about my back. When I mentioned my core I meant the whole core (not just abs). Any tips on what I can do to help that?

I’ve heard SS is great and I might try it eventually. Madcow I’ve heard is good too but is a weekly progression workout instead of every workout so its not really a beginner from what I understand.
[/quote]

Learn how to get and stay tight. A huge part of that is breathing correctly (into your belly and not your chest). There is a plethora of exercises you can use to strengthen your back and midsection, but at your stage following something like Starting Strength and learning how to get tight will go a long way to fixing your issues.

I’ve found pull-ups/chin-ups are a good exercise just to learn to get and keep your whole midsection engaged, and they’re easy to fit in to a novice program (I’m pretty sure SS uses them). Same goes for back extensions and hanging leg raises in terms of being easy additions that won’t detract from your main work.


#8

[quote]MarkKO wrote:

Point taken. I was referring more to the use of sets of 5, and that SS is probably one of the best novice programs out there. [/quote]

I’m honestly unimpressed with it’s track record, but I do feel like Rippetoe did a great job making lifting accessible to a lot of folks.


#9

[quote]T3hPwnisher wrote:

[quote]MarkKO wrote:

Point taken. I was referring more to the use of sets of 5, and that SS is probably one of the best novice programs out there. [/quote]

I’m honestly unimpressed with it’s track record, but I do feel like Rippetoe did a great job making lifting accessible to a lot of folks.[/quote]

Track record in what sense?


#10

[quote]craze9 wrote:

[quote]T3hPwnisher wrote:

[quote]MarkKO wrote:

Point taken. I was referring more to the use of sets of 5, and that SS is probably one of the best novice programs out there. [/quote]

I’m honestly unimpressed with it’s track record, but I do feel like Rippetoe did a great job making lifting accessible to a lot of folks.[/quote]

Track record in what sense?[/quote]

One criticism I’ve heard of it is that it can come with a bunch of unnecessary fat gain if the trainee doesn’t know how to regulate their diet so well - seems like GOMAD can make some people a little flabby. That, and after a while people do stall on it.

All that being said, the fat gain comes along with a bunch more strength, and there is a lot of good diet information around for someone willing to look which to some extent could mitigate the issue.

As to the stalling, my understanding is that a) the program does take it into account and changes slightly in its second stage to remedy that and b) anything aimed solely at novices is going to generate stalls once the raw novice stage is passed.

But, like mentioned above, I like how accessible and simple SS makes things. 5/3/1 is undoubtedly a better program, and while of course it can be used successfully by a raw novice it doesn’t make things as simple (it isn’t complicated by any means though).

All this made me wonder: how far has SS taken anyone? I haven’t heard of anyone getting, say 400/300/440 from it, but I’m pretty sure 5/3/1 has done that and more a bunch of times.


#11

Congratulations of making it through the twelve weeks! You’ve obviously gained a fair bit of strength. Some advice I would like to give you:

  1. The least fundamental bit first - work on your shoulder mobility (Jim Bathurst is a good resource). If you get lower back pain from overhead pressing, one likely explanation that many people overlook is that your shoulders do not allow you to press straight up - you compensate by leaning back and voila, the overextended lumbar spine leads to issues.

  2. Reconsider the switch to Sumo deadlifts. If deadlifting two plates gives you back pain, something about technique may be wrong.

  3. Ideally, go to a powerlifting, strongman or olympic lifting gym and train there for a few sessions. Get someone to show you how to create tension in your torso as I believe you aren’t doing that correctly right now.

  4. Concerning the program: Don’t do starting strength. It is much more similar to stronglifts than people like to believe and if SL has stopped working well, SS won’t be the miracle cure. Punisher’s written about how people on both programs eventually think they should be able to milk it some more just by resetting ONE MORE TIME and it never really works. If I were you, I would pick either greyskull LP or 531 with the fullbody template - both of them have the right amount of frequency and volume to keep practising but also include sets were you hit as many reps as possible - an addition that will be very beneficial to you.

Good luck.


#12

[quote]craze9 wrote:
Track record in what sense?[/quote]

Beginners who follow the program versus beginners who succeed with it. I tend to see more failures than successes, and usually the solution is to eat more calories (as Rippetoe loves to explain “You’re not following the fucking program”). I take issue with this solution as it’s not a solution that’s unique to Starting Strength: you can follow ANY program under the sun and get stronger by getting heavier, because weight MOVES weight. This is a trick any competitor understands.

I honestly feel like the issue is who the program gets marketed to. Rippetoe took Bill Starr’s program for training football players to get stronger, which did a great job at that, and made it presentable to trainees who had been sedentary their entire lives. Weight training for someone who has been playing sports their whole lives and just never touched a weight is honestly going to be very different compared to someone that spent their whole life playing computer games.

But, usually the things that are required to get someone ready to lift weights are things no one wants to do, so that’s part of the issue as well.


#13

[quote]MarkKO wrote:

[quote]craze9 wrote:

[quote]T3hPwnisher wrote:

[quote]MarkKO wrote:

Point taken. I was referring more to the use of sets of 5, and that SS is probably one of the best novice programs out there. [/quote]

I’m honestly unimpressed with it’s track record, but I do feel like Rippetoe did a great job making lifting accessible to a lot of folks.[/quote]

Track record in what sense?[/quote]

One criticism I’ve heard of it is that it can come with a bunch of unnecessary fat gain if the trainee doesn’t know how to regulate their diet so well - seems like GOMAD can make some people a little flabby. That, and after a while people do stall on it.

All that being said, the fat gain comes along with a bunch more strength, and there is a lot of good diet information around for someone willing to look which to some extent could mitigate the issue.

As to the stalling, my understanding is that a) the program does take it into account and changes slightly in its second stage to remedy that and b) anything aimed solely at novices is going to generate stalls once the raw novice stage is passed.

But, like mentioned above, I like how accessible and simple SS makes things. 5/3/1 is undoubtedly a better program, and while of course it can be used successfully by a raw novice it doesn’t make things as simple (it isn’t complicated by any means though).

All this made me wonder: how far has SS taken anyone? I haven’t heard of anyone getting, say 400/300/440 from it, but I’m pretty sure 5/3/1 has done that and more a bunch of times. [/quote]

You stall on SS/SL type programs because they are set up that way. You CANNOT go up 5/10 lbs all the time. That is why Texas Method and Madcow where developed. As far as taking some one to 400/300/440 is not understanding how basic the program is. If you are still doing the program after 9 months, you are not understanding the program (hell, even Ripp talks about that) or you are not consistent.

It gets you started, thats it. Basic compound movements.

Your low back is sore because it hasn’t caught up with the rest of your body. Again, Madcow and TM have answered that issue.

Saying 5/3/1 is a better program is like saying an apple is better then orange… Nothing wrong with any of them Do what you prefer. Enjoy your time in the gym.


#14

The issue with Starting Strength is that many (most?) people don’t do the program correctly. I would say this is the case with any internet program. If you take a relatively clueless beginner and they look up a program on the internet and then try to follow it, they are going to make a bunch of mistakes in implementing it, much of the time. I’d say this applies to 5/3/1 just as much as to SS, but it is a less intense program and therefore more forgiving if you do make mistakes.

The vast majority of people trying to do SS and then reporting all the problems they’re having with it never actually read the book. At face value this seems really stupid to me, but isn’t too surprising I guess. They never read the book, they don’t understand the context or principles of the program, so they’re unable to correct issues as they occur.

How fat one does or does not get is a product of diet, not training. Per the book, GOMAD is recommended only for underweight young men. In any case, it’s a diet issue and not relevant to a discussion of training programs. Wendler says to eat a pound of ground beef and a dozen eggs a day, and recommends up to 2g protein / lb of bodyweight. Regardless of what program one chooses, there are reasons for a beginner to eat a lot of food with high protein content.

Admittedly, I never did SS myself. I had been lifting a couple years when I heard of it and considered myself an “intermediate” at that time. But I have recently used the program to train a friend of mine. He started lifting for the first time in his life in the Fall, and his squat went from 85x5 to 185x5 in about 6 weeks. He then stopped lifting for quite a few months for various reasons. He began again in the Spring, starting with a squat of 135x5 and has brought it up to 265x5 in the last 12 weeks. He started with very minimal upper body strength but that has increased also – Bench from 65x5 to 125x5, OHP from 45x5 to 95x5. He is microloading and the lifts are still going up every workout, though I’ve altered his squat programming a bit now. He gained about 8 lbs of bodyweight in this time, from 165 to 173 lbs, eating as much as 3600 calories per day.

Obviously, he had me helping him throughout all this, telling him exactly what to do, which is a big advantage for a beginner. But the point is that SS works. It’s not a question of which program is “better,” but which is more appropriate. I think a linear progression is a better choice than 5/3/1 for MOST beginners, simply because the progression scheme is much more aggressive, and a beginner is capable of quick progression.


#15

I never really understood how SS progressed faster than 5/3/1. You add 5lbs per workout in SS, so 15lbs to squat per week.

Lets say a trainee is doing 5/3/1, and on their 5s week they squat 90lbs for 8 reps, and then next week, on the 3s week, they squat 105 for 8 reps…how is that slower?


#16

[quote]T3hPwnisher wrote:
I never really understood how SS progressed faster than 5/3/1. You add 5lbs per workout in SS, so 15lbs to squat per week.

Lets say a trainee is doing 5/3/1, and on their 5s week they squat 90lbs for 8 reps, and then next week, on the 3s week, they squat 105 for 8 reps…how is that slower?[/quote]

You and I have been over this before as I recall Punisher, so may end up agreeing to disagree, but I’ll try to explain my reasoning.

5/3/1 involves using a submaximal “Training Max”, with working set intensities based on a percentage of that max. It also employs a deload either every 3 or every 6 weeks. These principles are very smart, but they are designed to facilitate continued longterm progress over many months, without stalling.

The TM is increased either 5 or 10 lbs every 3-week block. There are rep-max records set each week, but these are at a relatively low intensity as a % of 1RM… ESPECIALLY if the lifter’s true 1RM is increasing faster than their Training Max.

For a relatively advanced lifter, this will not be the case. The TM will go up every 3 weeks, but it will be going up faster than the true 1RM, so eventually the TM will have to be reset. And the 5 forward 3 back cycle used.

But for a beginner, the TM is quickly going to lag WAY behind their true 1RM, because the latter is going up every training session while the former goes up every 3 weeks. The weight on the bar is going to get relatively lighter and lighter. Which is not optimal if the goal is increased strength.

For example, if I put my friend on 5/3/1 12 weeks ago based on his 135x5 squat, his TM would have been 137 lbs. Let’s make it 150 because he technically did 135x5x3. That means after 12 weeks, even if we omit deload weeks completely (not recommended), his TM would be 190 lbs. That means the heaviest set he’s working with is 181 lbs (95% of 190). Which is not very heavy. Not heavy ENOUGH, imo, for optimal strength progress. Assuming his strength increased at the same rate as if he’d done SS, his true 1RM at this point is 265x5 = 298 lbs. A guy who can or could squat 265x5 is instead doing his heaviest set of the entire MONTH with 180 lbs on the bar, repping it out for 12-15 reps. The “light” week will have only 162 lbs on the bar, which is very very light, if you compare it to the Prilepin chart.

So beginner on 5/3/1 will still be progressing each session in terms of doing more reps, but the weight on the bar is getting lighter and lighter (relatively), instead of getting heavier and heavier. The weight progression is not aggressive enough for a true beginner, unless you start adding joker sets and skipping deloads and increasing TM in bigger jumps – which represents making major changes to the basic templates.


#17

I simply don’t see how the progress is slower. I will agree it is different, for in one case we have a trainee that adds weight each time and in the other we have a trainee that adds weight and reps while training at a lower percentage of their 1rm, but I’m unsure how we are going about equating the progression SINCE it is so different.

I feel like the issue is a narrowly defined view of “progress”, in that it seems we’re defining it as a 1rm. I will contend that more time spent training closer to one’s 1rm will develop one’s ability to produce a greater 1rm than time spent NOT doing that, but I also feel that strength exists at various rep ranges. A beginner training with 5/3/1 may be unable to produce a great 1rm at the beginning stages of their training, but they’re going to be developing strength at various ranges as a result of the fact that they are training at various ranges, rather than the same rep and set range applied universally.

This is why I don’t understand statements that measure rate of progress in regards to either program. I have zero interest in discussing the merits of either program (I feel my thoughts on that have already been made).


#18

The weight progression is slower. That’s the crux of the issue. Weight on the bar, i.e. intensity. That’s all I meant when I said the progression scheme of SS is more aggressive than 5/3/1.

Whether actual progress, i.e. strength development, is slower/faster is a hypothetical question to which we have no concrete answer without a bunch of empirical data to compare. But I tend to think that the fact that most beginners are going to increase their true 1rm much faster than the TM, and are therefore quickly going to be working primarily in the 50-70% of their true 1RM on 5/3/1, rather than consistently around 80-90% as on a linear progression, means slower overall strength progress.

I have no hard data to support this, but it is my bias. I think strength will increase faster squatting 3 heavy sets of 5 as often as possible for as long as one is able to recover from it, than squatting one set of max reps of a lighter weight. I honestly don’t think my friend would be squatting 265x5 now if I had started him on 5/3/1 using the recommended TM of 150 lbs, with deloads, 12 weeks ago. I also think trying to implement 5/3/1 to account for these factors – skipping deloads, joker sets, etc – is just introducing far more complexity than necessary for a lifter who’s able to simply add weight to the bar every workout. Do it for as long as you can since it represents the fastest weight progression, and when it stops working, then do something else, is my approach.


#19

[quote]craze9 wrote:
Whether actual progress, i.e. strength development
[/quote]

Strength at what range? And what of hypertrophy and conditioning?

I feel this is where we’re going to continue to differ on the issue, as we are using different measurements of progress.


#20

Take two identical people. Height, age, weight, diet, etc.

One does 6 months of SS/SL, then goes to 5/3/1.

The other does only 5/3/1

5 years go by.

You are saying that the first guy will be farther ahead?

THAT is what you don’t understand with 5/3/1. And I loath the “newbie gain” saying.

Nothing wrong with ss/sl. Just different approach.